A film & some FAQs

First, the FAQs.

As we’re talking with people about Novō and our move to Bolivia a number of key questions come up. Here’s how I’ve been answering them:

When are you leaving?

We’ll leaving for Bolivia in June. This means the kids will be able (more or less) to complete their school year here and be ready to start a new school year in Bolivia at the beginning of August.

What do the next 8 months look like?

Between now and Christmas my focus is on two things. Firstly, ensuring we do a good leadership transition at Yeldall. Secondly, laying excellent foundations for Novō by building a strong support base who, through their prayerful and financial support, will bring this vision to life.

In the New Year my focus will continue to be on building a strong support base for Novō. I will also be writing a Recovery Manual which we’ll use as the basis for our group work in the Novō communities. As a couple we will be investing heavily in our Spanish so that we have the language skills we need to be effective.

Where will the kids go to school?

The kids will enrol at the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Centre (SCCLC). The SCCLC was set-up to educate the children of missionaries and many of the teachers are themselves serving with mission agencies. The student population is about 50% Bolivians and 50% ex-pats so it has a balanced feel to it and should give the kids a good blend of friendships, tonnes of opportunity to become fluent Spanish speakers, and a solid educational foundation.

How will you be financed?

In short, we’re trusting God to provide for our needs and the needs of Novō through the generous support of His people. We will begin fundraising in October. We have a superb team of Trustees who I’ll introduce in a future post. They will administer all funds raised in the UK for the general funds of Novō through a Charitable Trust and they will have oversight of our personal support which will be administered by Mullers (formerly the George Muller Foundation).

Will you be working on this alone?

No. In addition to our Novō trustees here in the UK we will be moving forward in partnership with Yeldall Manor and the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM). We got to the know the EFCCM during our previous time in Bolivia and will be operating in Bolivia under their auspices. This will enable us to be a part of their growing team on the ground and to benefit from their legal status and national network in Bolivia.

Do you have property in Bolivia yet?

Yes. In Tarija, through the generosity of a member of the church there, we have been offered a 10-acre plot of land, with building, just outside the city. In Santa Cruz we are in conversation with an American mission agency about making use of a 2-acre plot of land, with two buildings, which they own and would like to see used for this kind of work.

How long will you be in Bolivia?

This one I can’t answer! I’ve tried to predict the future in this area before… We’ll need to be in Bolivia for at least the next 5 years to oversee the piloting of the first Novō projects. Beyond that, it seems probable that Bolivia will remain the right place for us to be based for some time as we help to see Novō communities established elsewhere through a community-franchising approach, but only time will tell.

Now, to the film.

This is something we threw together after spending time with a medical team caring for a group of young addicts on the streets of Santa Cruz. I hope it will give you a bit of an insight into life on the streets for these young lads.

Why Bolivia?

“Why Bolivia?” It’s a good question and one I’m often asked. The answer has to do with Bolivia and its ‘story so far’ and to do with us and our ‘story so far’.

Bolivia is an incredible country, a place of breathtaking scenery and engaging people, a place of fascinating natural and human diversity. It is also one of the poorest countries in Latin America and one of the most unequal countries in the world.

  • In 2012 its UN Human Development Index (HDI) value positioned the country at 108 out of 187 countries and territories, a rank it shares with Mongolia.
  • According to the UN Development Programme, only the nations of Colombia, Namibia, Botswana, Haiti, Angola and Comoros are more unequal than Bolivia.

Bolivia (as I mentioned in my last post) is in a period of rapid social change. As a result of this change it is experiencing a growth in severe social problems such as sexual abuse, prostitution, underemployment, and child neglect. We know that these problems leave individuals with huge deficits in terms of their sense of security, significance and self-worth – problems which readily lead people into substance abuse and addiction.

Street Kids 3

Bolivia is also the world’s third largest grower of the Coca leaf, the raw ingredient of Cocaine and, increasingly, a centre for its consumption and production:

“Not too long ago, poor areas such as in South America mainly produced drugs for use in rich markets like the U.S. But that is changing. New data show consumption of illegal drugs is rising in the emerging world even as their use remains unchanged, or even declines, in some rich countries… While cocaine production has declined in Colombia amid a decade long U.S.-backed crackdown, traffickers are successfully relocating production to neighbours such as Bolivia and Peru”. ‘Drug Use Climbs in Poorer Nations’, The Wall Street Journal, 26th June 2012

Though cocaine itself is too expensive for many Bolivians, a form of crude cocaine called Pitillo is widely abused – as are alcohol, marijuana, glue, and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

“Essentially a chemical waste product, Paco is what remains from the narco-kitchens producing cocaine bound for US and European markets… Addictive after one or two hits, the drug systematically destroys the nervous system. Users quickly become skeletal and ravaged, resorting to crime, violence and prostitution to feed their habits… Paco was smoked in other cocaine-producing countries before it reached Argentina: it is known as Kete in Peru, Bazuco in Colombia and Pitillo in Bolivia.” ‘The 10p cocaine by-product turning Argentina’s slum children into the living dead’, The Observer, 21st February 2010

Those who work on the ground in Bolivia with gangs, addicts and street children confirm that the drug and alcohol problem is serious and growing. The Bolivian government is also aware of this need. In February 2012 Government Minister Carlos Romero spoke of, “the urgent need to establish rehabilitation centres to deal with the proliferation of gangs of violent youths addicted to drugs and alcohol.”

Street Kids 1

Crucially, our reasons for launching Novō in Bolivia are also personal and practical. From 2006-2009 Andy served as the Pastor of Trinity International Church in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. During this time God gave us a heart for this diverse, beautiful and damaged nation. We also now see how he prepared us practically to be able to set-up Novō – giving us a huge head-start in terms of the language, culture, and practicalities of living and working overseas. Crucially, we also find ourselves with a superb network of friends and contacts in Bolivia, including some key organisations and individuals who will prove to be key partners in establishing the first new projects.